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Hardie hopes backdated tax law will help fill asbestos black hole

Elizabeth Colman
February 18, 2006 - JAMES Hardie Industries hopes new tax laws introduced this week could help fund its $1.6 billion settlement payout to asbestos sufferers.

The laws, which are backdated to apply from July 1, 2005, could give Hardie millions of dollars in tax breaks on the payout agreed to in December.

The changes, unveiled by Assistant Treasurer Peter Dutton on Thursday, allow businesses to claim tax deductions for a range of costs previously considered to be "black hole expenditures".

The Australian Taxation Office last year knocked back a claim by Hardie for $500 million in tax deductions.

Under a hard-won deal signed in December, Hardie agreed to pay up to 35 per cent of its yearly profits into a fund to compensate people harmed by asbestos products.

The deal, however, was conditional on the company obtaining the tax deductions.

Treasurer Peter Costello declined to pass special laws, despite pressure from the NSW Government and unions to give the global building company tax breaks.

Mr Costello declared Hardie "should be able to take advantage of deductibility of black hole expenditures".

Hardie reportedly negotiated with Treasury during the drafting of the black hole expenditure rules.

It is understood Hardie will apply again for a private ruling based on the new laws if a review of the bill suggests a reasonable chance of success.

"The Treasurer pointed us towards it in his statements last year and now it's something for us to look at," a spokesman for James Hardie said. "We are currently reviewing the Government's proposed legislation for the treatment of black hole expenditures. It would be inappropriate to comment on its implications at this time," he said.

Tax law experts said yesterday the laws appeared not to differ widely from an earlier, confidential draft.

Melbourne University tax law professor Cameron Rider said the laws addressed a key problem.

"You couldn't get a deduction for businesses that have ceased to carry on and that had been a general problem for some time," Professor Rider said.

"One of the changes this new legislation makes is to allow deductions for businesses that have terminated. So that you would think gives some help," he said.

"It has been a long-standing problem and it has been helpful that the change has been made.

"It's not just been a problem for James Hardie, it has been a problem for ... warranty claims by former customers (and) industrial disease claims (for example)."

After a 2001 restructure Hardie no longer owned its former asbestos-making subsidiary - an independent foundation liable for compensation payments to former employees suffering from asbestos-related diseases.

KPMG tax partner Stephen Gottlieb criticised as "restrictive" the earlier drafting and tax office interpretation of black hole expenditure rules.

"The proposed amendments go a long way to addressing this issue," Mr Gottlieb said.

"The income tax law currently subjects virtually all income or gains to income tax - however, there are losses ... which businesses incur where there was no tax relief either through deduction or capital loss."


Lung cancer not always caused by smoking

Lung cancer is often associated with cigarette smoking.

BEIJING, March.9 (Xinhuanet) -- The death of Dana Reeve, Christopher Reeve's widow, from lung cancer has challenged the usual assumption that victims who died of lung cancer were always smokers in their lifetime.

Reeve was diagnosed with lung cancer less than a year ago. Like 15 percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer, she was a nonsmoker.

The usual assumption that victims somehow "asked for it" by smoking has created an unfair stigma, says Lori Hope, a lung cancer survivor and author of Help Me Live: 20 Things People With Cancer Want You to Know. She said, people diagnosed with lung cancer were often being asked whether they smoke.

Hope said research into the disease is underfunded because lung cancer is thought to be a self-inflicted desease due to the stigma.


Testing The Efficacy Of Targeted Therapies Against Human Lung Cancer

Main Category: Lung Cancer News
20 May 2006 - As reported in the June 1 issue of G&D, Drs. Katerina Politi, Harold Varmus and colleagues at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York have developed a novel animal model of lung adenocarcinoma that will be of great use in testing the efficacy of targeted therapies against human lung cancer.

"We hope to use these models to understand how mutations in the EGFR gene initiate lung tumors, which are the most common cause of cancer mortality . In addition, these models will allow us to evaluate the effectiveness of new drugs and drug combinations and to study the molecular basis of resistance to existing tyrosine kinase inhibitors," explains Dr. Politi.

Lung cancer patients who harbor mutations in the human epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene generally have a better response to drugs that inhibit EGFR (like Iressa and Tarceva). Dr. Politi and colleagues have engineered a strain of mice with a mutated form of EGFR that can be turned on or off in lung cells at will. These inducible EGFR-mutant mice allow the researchers to evaluate the contribution of EGFR mutations to lung cancer formation, progression and response to chemotherapeutics.

The researchers found that mutations in EGFR drive lung tumorigenesis, and that either turning off the mutant EGFR gene or inhibiting it with drug can effectively force the tumors into regression. Thus, their model not only lends mechanistic insight into the genetic factors involved in lung cancer, but also serves as a paradigm to develop, test, and hopefully improve targeted cancer therapies.

Heather Cosel
coselpie@cshl.edu
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
http://www.cshl.org


Laser test may detect lung cancer earlier

May 29, 2006 - (Yorkshire Post Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)Yorkshire trials bring new hope David Hogg A LASER-guided lung cancer treatment tested in Yorkshire has proved a success in detecting almost 20 per cent more potential cases than current methods, researchers have claimed.

Blue light from lasers is more effective at identifying abnormal cells in the lungs than natural light - the current detection system - studies show.

Although the researchers remain cautious, they say their findings raise the possibility that thousands of extra lives could be saved each year by catching the disease earlier.

When the Yorkshire Laser Centre in Goole trialled the new "blue laser" treatment with heavy smokers and others at a potentially higher risk of lung cancer they found it picked up microscopic changes in affected cells - even in people whose X-rays showed no sign of the disease.

In fact, one in six smokers in the study showed early signs of cancer that would otherwise have probably gone undetected until much later by normal methods.

The work was based on knowledge that the laser's blue light can detect the pre-cancerous cells, as they absorb it at a different frequency to white light.

Prof Keyvan Moghissi, who headed the study, said the technology had been pioneered in Canada but only used previously on patients who had already developed the disease.

Prof Moghissi said: "Out of the blue we have a group of people who look absolutely normal, but we have detected in many of them something that looks like the first steps of cancer.

"Of course, combined with an effective screening programme of those considered at risk this could save thousands of lives because it is still at the reversible stage when we detect it." Lung cancer is one of the biggest cancer killers, claiming more than 30,000 lives each year in this country. More people die worldwide from lung cancer than any other type of the disease.

Standard treatment for lung cancer over the past 40 years has been the trio of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Of these, surgery remains the initial treatment in 80 per cent of cases.

Eight out of 10 people with early-stage cancer who undergo surgery live for at least another five year,s but more than 80 per cent of all cases are inoperable because they are caught too late.

The scientists believe further research is now needed to evaluate the significance of their findings.

But they said it was clear that the earlier treatment could be provided, such as with other medical laser techniques like photo-dynamic therapy, the greater the chance of treating patients successfully.

n Late-stage tumours have the ability to turn the immune system against itself, new research shows.

The findings suggest another way in which cancer manages to survive and spread in the body.

Tumours produce many types of abnormal proteins. Some enable them to grow rapidly, while others affect the immune system.

In some cases, tumours generate "beacons" that alert the immune system and invite an attack from the body's defences.

This may be responsible for some reports of "miraculous" recoveries of patients.

But one tumour protein has an opposite effect when overproduced. It can spur otherwise helpful immune system cells to become agents of sabotage.

Instead of performing their job of activating other kinds of immune cell, the altered cells suppress them.

The discovery was reported in the journal Nature Immunology by Dr Thomas Spies, who is based at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington.

david.hogg@ypn.co.uk


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